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First Orion’s Charles Morgan Has Number on Bad Calls

3 min read
Charles Morgan has led First Orion since 2008. That same year, he ended his 36-year tenure as CEO of Acxiom Corp. (now LiveRamp). He was chairman of Acxiom’s board for 30 years as well.

Morgan serves on the boards of Inuvo Inc. and the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, a public-private partnership focused on narrowing the technology talent gap in Arkansas and helping the state’s businesses use data analytics. He has written two books, including his recently released “Now What? The Biography of a (Finally) Successful Startup.”

First Orion’s PrivacyStar and other applications let cellphone users identify callers and block unwanted calls.

Have the spam callers gotten worse in the past year? How can you stay one step ahead of them?

To clarify, spam vs. scam: A spammer is usually trying to sell you something. Scam calls are about separating you from your money.

Starting in about 2016, scam calls started going through the roof. These fraudsters can be anywhere in the world and phone you from a number in your own area code, hoping to trick you into answering. That, by the way, is called spoofing.

At First Orion, blocking scam calls is our top job. But if we’re stopping them in one area, particularly at a large carrier like T-Mobile, they’ll try to figure out how we’re blocking them and adjust their technology to get around it. They’re constantly probing and changing tactics. The way we combat this is through data analytics. We determine who these guys are by having a lot of data about what’s gone on before. Associated with every calling number is routing information and various components of data that we can look at to attempt to determine if it’s a good or bad call.

What are the pros and cons of taking a company public?

The upside is that, if you have a public or traded stock, you have access to public markets to raise more money. You also have a corporate currency that you can use to buy things for the business or to give stock options to employees, options that they can immediately convert to money.

The downside is that you have all of the public oversight scrutiny — accounting rules, the stock exchange rules and the immense number of regulatory and board oversights that can slow the growth of a company dramatically.

First Orion is a private company, and it won’t go public as long as I’m in charge. I’ll take my money and run first.

Are there any advantages to operating a tech company in Arkansas? What about the disadvantages?

One huge advantage is the character of our workforce. There’s a sense of pride in the people of this state that translates not just to hard work, but also to ingenuity, adaptability and loyalty.

The disadvantage is that our workforce hasn’t traditionally been trained in cutting-edge technology, but I’ll trade that disadvantage for the character of our workforce any day.

We have a trainable, adaptable, hardworking workforce, and with the right investment and training — which we’re involved in right now through the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences — we can create a tech workforce that can compete with anybody.

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